The way it looks right now, Ilya Kovalchuk will become the prize acquisition at this year’s trade deadline. With negotiations between Ilya Kovalchuk’s agent Jay Grossman and Thrashers general manager Don Waddell not going in the right direction, few people around the league are optimistic an extension will get done. If they can’t reach a deal in the very near future, look for Waddell to start exploring trade options for ‘Kovy’; a deal would likely go down before the Olympic break. Here are five teams that would go after the 27-year-old Russian rental…
1. Los Angeles Kings Southern California could be the most likely destination for Kovalchuk based on the package the Thrashers could receive in return. The Kings have a wide array of prospects from which Atlanta could choose from; defensemen Colten Teubert and Thomas Hickey would instantly be rumored to go the other way. Pending UFA Alex Frolov could also be included in a deal.
Terry Murray’s club would certainly improve by getting Kovalchuk. A potential top line (and power play unit) with ‘Kovy’, Kopitar, and Smyth would be scary. A trade like this would also send a message to the city of Los Angeles that the team is committed to winning right now. If they were to do this, I wouldn’t want to play them in the postseason.
2. Philadelphia Flyers As I said on Sunday, the Flyers could become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference down the stretch – if not, the NHL. That would become even more likely if they decided to swing a deal for ‘Kovy’. They do not have much cap space to pull off a deal like this, but all of that would change if GM Paul Holmgren included Jeff Carter. Last week, Holmgren stated he isn’t ‘shopping’ Carter.
I can’t even imagine the possibility of Kovalchuk in orange and black. Do you know how electric that offense would be with him in the lineup!? Good lord! The goaltending duo of Ray Emery and Michael Leighton would be the only thing standing in their way of making a deep run in the East.
3. Boston Bruins Boston currently has the 4th-worst offense in the league – and it won’t get any better these next couple weeks without Savard and Bergeron. Kovalchuk would bring a dimension to the B’s that they haven’t had since… well, Phil Kessel, and that’s a forward with instant goal-scoring ability from anywhere on the ice.
‘Kovy’ would be a good fit in Boston with a healthy Savard setting him up. He may not be the best fit for Claude Julien’s style, but should that keep them from pulling this off?? Heck, no! A potential deal could cost the B’s youngsters like Blake Wheeler and Zach Hamill, but it’d be well-worth it if GM Peter Chirarelli feels Kovalchuk would make them a Cup contender. Boston left last year’s playoffs with a bad taste in their mouth, and they are determined to go deeper this time around.
4. Calgary Flames Calgary has not been rumored to be in the hunt for Kovalchuk, but no one has ruled them out, either; this is pure speculation on my part. GM Darryl Sutter has shown that he is willing to make an impact deal at the deadline, including last year’s trade to acquire Olli Jokinen. Like Philly, the Flames would not have a lot of wiggle room to fit in the Russian Olympian – unless they offered Dion Phaneuf, who seems to be wearing out his welcome in Calgary.
To be the dynamite offensive force he can be, Jarome Iginla needs a go-to guy. Rene Bourque has been great this year, but you know ‘Iggy’ misses Mike Cammalleri, who scored 39 goals beside him last season. Phaneuf is expendable if you ask me, and the back end can be just as good without him. The addition of Kovalchuk would put Calgary in the upper echelon of the West. I’d seriously contemplate making a pitch for ‘Kovy’ if I were Sutter.
5. Washington Capitals This is a long-shot if you ask me. But if Waddell goes to Kovalchuk and asks where he wants to go, Washington could be at the top of his list. You know he would love to play next to countrymen Ovechkin and Semin. GM George McPhee may have the assets to get a deal done, but would he part with Karl Alzner??
If you ask me today if the Caps are legit Cup contenders, I’d say no. Why? The defense isn’t built for the playoffs, and the goaltending isn’t proven. That’s why I think McPhee should go after a D-man rather than another forward. But… if the Caps acquire ‘Kovy’ and avoid dealing away Semin, I love their chances of making a run in the shallow Eastern Conference. Ovechkin and Kovalchuk would be a deadly combo.
Sleeper team to watch… Phoenix Coyotes Any team that is going after Kovalchuk should consider themselves a Cup contender with his services – unless you’re the Coyotes. Their offensive attack is average at best, and would surely boost their attendance (and playoff hopes) by acquiring ‘Kovy’. I feel like it would benefit the franchise greatly by making the playoffs. They have the prospects and picks to pull this off. Don’t be surprised to see the Russian superstar go from one non-hockey market to another…
Other teams that could get in on the act: Chicago Detroit New Jersey NY Rangers Vancouver
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